Glancing at Queen’s Nigerian identities

2023 Nigerian elections impact African identities beyond borders

Image by: Clanny Mugabe
Nigerian identites reconcile with Canadian identities.

The Journal investigated the relationships immigrant students have with the cultural diaspora of Nigeria and how they connect to places with their families of origin. 

The 2023 Nigerian gubernatorial elections made headlines for their impact across the nation and sparked a political engagement among people formally uninvolved in the changes of the nation. Nigeria’s population is the sixth largest in the world, containing 150 cultures with a vast diaspora of African identities. With Nigeria encompassing the largest population in Africa, the events represent the numerous cultural and political ideologies of the nation. 

Peter Obi and his party began a youth movement to encourage statistically unengaged young adults to participate in the voting process. Those ranging from the ages of 18 to 30 campaigned across social media platforms and rallies to have their voices heard in the election. 

The Nigerian elections remind Africa of the power the nation holds over its culture on a global scale. The social and cultural events in Nigeria extend beyond the borders of the country itself and impact the students in Canada who hold dual nationalities and heritages. 

“Although I may not live in the country, I tried to play my part as best as I can and share social media posts of the elections and other corrupt things going on during the casting of votes,” Sere Otubu, Sci ’25, said in an interview with The Journal.

He explained Queen’s diverse group of student nationalities creates a space for dispersive cultural identities rooted in a legacy of heritage. 

As a Nigerian Canadian, Otubu felt strongly connected to his Nigerian heritage despite the physical distance between Canada and Nigeria. He knows his Nigerian heritage is a big part of who he is and felt personally invested in the Nigerian election. 

He emphasised the importance of education when getting involved with politics outside his resident country. Referencing this past election, he remarked on the call for change electors were proliferating and said they should aim for as much as transparency as possible. 

Otubu believes the results of the election do not represent the desires of the citizens. 

He said elections are the easiest way for people of any democratic society to voice their opinions and call on their leaders for change. 

“It’s unfortunate that things went the way they did, but I am very proud of the number of youths that came out to try and make a difference, and I believe that their wishes will be answered soon with a bit more time,” he said. 

The election was a turning point for many youths and the same energy is felt among Queen’s students. It allowed for a more direct path for Nigerian students to gain influence from their heritage and make autonomous life decisions. 

When discussing the influence of his culture on his experience at Queen’s, Otubu mentioned the direct role it played on his experiences. 

“I very much feel like my Nigerian heritage plays an important part in my identity as a Queen’s student, and I am proud of my cultural background and the other multiple Nigerian students attending Queen’s and representing themselves and where we come from well,” he said. 

He believed his cultural background made him work hard to leave a positive mark on the community here.

“I have seen how hard my parents work and other notable Nigerians around the world break down barriers and achieve the unimaginable, and that makes me work just as hard to set a good example for others who may be watching me as well,” Otubu said. 

As a student, he finds it difficult to balance his Nigerian and Canadian identity, something he has prioritized since he was young. 

“From when I was young, my parents always made sure I listened to the music from back home, ate the cultural foods, wore our traditional clothing, watched the movies, and much more.” 

Although his parents tried their best their best to bridge the gap in his nationalities, he wished they emphasized teaching him in his mother tongue Urhobo. 

In general, he has always felt connected to his homeland; despite being born in Canada, he feels a tie between the two identities. 

“I have my parents to thank for instilling the cultural pride I have today, and the sense of involving myself in the community in any way I can. Even while schooling here, I have some of my mother’s special dishes from our tribe just in case I get tired of eating the food here or miss home-cooked meals,” Otubu said. 

He said Queen’s could support his identity better, and called on examples from other Canadian universities with high levels of cultural diversity. 

“I think Canadian universities can take inspiration from a place like York University which holds a cultural festival every year [CultureFest] that runs for about six days.” 

Hosting an event similar to York’s CultureFest would allow students to express their cultural identities while also partaking in a celebration of other students’ cultures through the exchange of food, fashion, music, and tradition, according to Otubu.

Otubu feels it’s an important part of any experience to learn about how to appreciate other cultures. 

Nifemi Adeoye, Health Sci ’25, does not believe Queen’s assists in celebrating her Nigerian heritage in a time when being African is a moment of celebration. 

When she was younger it was not cool to be Nigerian in the way it is now. She would get comments on her skin and hair, but now the social media is celebrating African identities and helping her stay connected with her culture. 

“I think what’s different for me is that because I can speak the language, I think language is such a huge part of it,” Adeoye said. 

Language allows her to feel connected to Nigeria despite her living in Canada for along time. She wants to support and connect international students who feel they are floundering in their identity. 

International student Deborah Adebola-Dada, Comm ’23, spoke to The Journal about the effect the Nigerian election had on her while living in Canada during the time of event.  

“I had to actively take a step back because I knew that if I focused on how that election went, like, I would fail all my courses,” she said.

The Nigerian elections had a large impact on her as someone who grew up in Nigeria, and she felt very involved in it. 

While growing up in Nigeria, she was surrounded by Nigerian politics, but being twenty now and more educated means that, unlike in her childhood, she understood what was at stake. 

She said she belonged to a demographic most heavily involved and outspoken in this election. Knowing the history of Nigerian politics and being a part of the most involved demographic, Adebola-Dada still felt very involved and informed. 

“I think it’s just really heartbreaking when people show up in the face of adversity and in the face of fear. Crazy things are happening, [and] they’re still showing up to do their due diligence as a citizen, and everything is thrown up in your face,” she said of the election’s aftermath.

The election is just one way Adebola-Dada engages with her culture. Being a student who lived in Nigeria until she was 16, Adebola-Dada always had a close connection to her home country.

“My culture, identity, it was very, very easily shaped by people around me in Nigeria, my family, my friends, the people I talk to in school, the culture—it’s every everything that you have.”

She represents a perspective very close to Nigeria, having spent a significant portion of her life there and remaining politically active and aware. 

According to Adebola-Dada, self-expression is one of the key ways Canadian universities can make space for students to feel more comfortable and involved with their identity. She spoke about the importance of expression, referring to the voice she had with the Nigerian election.

It was the youth voice and youth expression that was key in making that election monumental, according to Adebola-Dada. At institutions like Queen’s and other white-dominated spaces, she said clubs like the African and Caribbean Students Association (ACSA) are good examples of spaces being provided for student cultural expression.

In a school like Queen’s and program like Commerce, Adebola-Dada often finds herself being the only Black person in the room. She believes resources are being made available to her, and access to a diverse set of friends and schools of thought are improving her Queen’s experience.

Through all her experiences as an international student in Canada and facing the difficulties of coming here, Adebola-Dada spoke on the importance of community and togetherness.

“When I think of cultural legacy, I don’t picture myself as an individual; I think about a shared community and what we’re going to do together.” 


Africa, black students, immigrant

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